Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a form of therapy particularly effective for those afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder, can physically normalize brain activity. CBT can also be used to treat mood, anxiety, personality, eating, substance abuse, and psychotic disorders. CBT assumes that events lead to thoughts which lead to feelings which lead to behaviors.
A person with obsessive compulsive disorder is caught in a cycle as his brain in locked. The sufferer endures obsessions which cause intense feelings of anxiety. In order to reduce the anxiety and “effectively” neutralize obsessive thoughts, the patient develops rituals, or compulsions. These rituals are very repetitive in nature and must be performed in a very specific way. Since relief from compulsions is always short-term, the rituals must be performed indefinitely in order to feel the same respite. Because the person is “rewarded” with decreased anxiety, he performs this action over and over again to no avail. He is essentially riding an old bicycle which only goes in circles.
Common methods employed include thought diffusion, thought disputation. and breathing exercises. Thought diffusion enables the afflicted to distance himself from the relentless thought by mentally “seeing” his thought as words on a piece of paper. This takes away the thought’s power and effectively relieves feelings of anxiety. Thought disputation is a systematic approach used to challenge the thought through the recognition that thoughts can be distorted. Common cognitive distortions include mindreading, fortunetelling, catastrophizing, and dichotomous thinking. Acknowledging that your thought is severely distorted takes the power away from the thought and returns it to the individual.
Renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud said, “This is a mad disease, surely.” He added, “Only one thing is open to him – he can displace and exchange; instead of one silly idea he can adopt another of a slightly milder character, from one precaution or prohibition he can proceed to another, instead of one ceremonial rite he can perform another. He can displace his sense of compulsion, but he cannot dispel it.”
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, although objectively debilitating and disturbing, has become treatable through the use of CBT.